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Recommended Books about Adoption for Kids

By Sheila Welch


Our book reviewer, Sheila Welch, has recommendations on books to read about adoption in recognition of National Adoption Month.



I read Worth by A. LaFaye over a year ago, but I have not forgotten those two strong boy characters. All the main characters are clearly defined and play important roles in this captivating winner of a Scott O’Dell Award for historical fiction. When Nathan, the narrator, is severely injured on his family’s Midwestern farm, his father brings home a boy who arrived on a train. Is this city kid going to replace Nathan? This question will grab and hold the interest of readers in grades fourth through eighth. Worth brings to life a period in the history of the USA that's unfamiliar to many children and even adults. From 1854 until 1930, Orphan Trains carried destitute city kids west to be placed with country families. Neither Nathan nor John Worth is happy about their drastically changed lives and their inability to turn back time. Yet gradually they begin to inch forward together, learning about and from each other. When a local range war flares up, the two boys cooperate to help curb the hostility, and readers will welcome the realistic but satisfying conclusion. The Aladdin paperback edition has an appealing cover and  contains thought-provoking questions for classroom or book club discussion.

Orphan train rider

Orphan train rider

 In her nonfiction book, Orphan Train Rider: One Boy’s Story,  Andrea Warren focuses on Lee Nailling’s childhood that took on a nightmarish quality after his mother died and his father placed him and one of his brothers in an orphanage. Lee was determined to return to his family. His hopes were raised several years later when his father arrived just as Lee and his brother Leo were boarding a train. Instead of claiming his boys, their father gave Lee another little brother to watch over plus an envelope with an address. Lee had lost all trust in adults but clung to both his brothers until they and that envelope were taken from him. Lee’s anger and sense of despair come through clearly in this personal tale of one of the many ultimately successful Orphan Train riders. Readers in third -- fifth grade will appreciate this honest and uplifting true tale.


The orphan trains: a history perspectives book

 the orphan trains

The Orphan Trains: A History Perspectives Book by Peggy Caravantes invites children to view history from multiple perspectives. In the first chapter, James is introduced as just one of approximately 200,000 city kids who rode west on special trains to new country lives. Next, readers meet Mrs. King who talked her husband into the idea of adding a boy to their childless home. The final perspective is told by the “agent”, an adult who traveled with the kids on these unusual trains. This true story (or stories!) will help expand the minds of first through fourth graders. Age appropriate additional information is included in the back matter of the book. I think one section is especially valuable because it encourages children to “imagine” they are orphans themselves and to contemplate what might be their biggest worry.

We are adopted

we are adopted

We Are Adopted by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos and illustrated by Rosa Curto concerns adoption of children from other countries. Told by a little girl who is anticipating the arrival of her baby brother from Russia, which was her place of birth also, this book is appropriate for preschoolers through second graders. The softly sketchy illustrations depict a happy, contented family. Only a few sentences are devoted to the possibility of anyone being “upset.” Six pages in the back are meant for adults and present ideas for creating family photo albums and a few other memory-related crafts plus a section titled “Guidelines for Parents.” This last portion could help parents deal with their own concerns about some of the difficult aspects of foreign and older-child adoption.

About Sheila

Sheila Kelly Welch is a mother, grandmother and retired teacher. She counts among her children’s fiction books LITTLE PRINCE KNOW-IT-ALL and A HORSE FOR ALL SEASONS. Sheila's novel, WAITING TO FORGET, has been selected by Bank Street College and Pennsylvania School Library Association for their lists of best-books-of-the-year. Her most recent stories, MESS-UP MOLLY and BIG CAT AND KITTEN, are published on-line by MeeGenius.